Ground Cover Battle Royal: Picking The Right Mulches When Gardening With Pets
Gardens overflowing with flowers or keeping the refrigerator full of vegetables take a lot of work, especially when it comes to weeding. Laying down a nice thick layer of mulch from a landscaping materials supplier is a smart way to avoid the backache after a day's worth of weed pulling. While you may have already compared various organic and inorganic mulches for their benefits for the plants, don't forget to consider how they can affect your pets when they wander into the garden.
You don't want your flower bed to get treated like a kitty box or a fire hydrant - it damages the plants and becomes a serious health hazard if you're growing food. Wood chips and other organic materials are easy to dig, making them an attractive bathroom spot for dogs and cats alike. Look for inorganic mulches like rounded river stones or sharp-edged gravel, either material with large pieces over 1 inch in length, to discourage bathroom visits.
Dogs love to chew and both inorganic gravel mulch and organic bark pieces can trigger this behavior. Both wood and stone damage the pup's teeth, so try a chew-proof barrier like plastic sheeting or soy ink newspaper if your dog indulges in this kind of behavior. Pine needles are another good option because they're not very attractive for chewing and soft enough to leave teeth intact.
Mess Making Opportunity
Aside from acting as an impromptu litter box, most mulches are also easily spread by a playful dog or a curious cat. Unless you want to spend the time you saved on weeding picking up stray bits of mulch, try an option like:
- Landscaping fabric or sheets of plastic pinned down with large metal staples
- Heavy and over-sized gravel or pieces of stone large enough to resist attempts to move them
- Composted leaves, finely cut grass clippings, and other materials that don't look as messy after being scattered around
Many homeowners gravitate towards cocoa bean shell pieces as a pathway covering or flower bed mulch because it's attractive, stays in place, and smells good. Unfortunately, that sweet smell of a cup of hot cocoa that you enjoy is also very enticing to dogs. It's dangerous enough to cause seizures when eaten, so avoid it at all costs if you have canine companions that could so much as accidentally enter your garden.
Mushroom and Mold Growth
Don't forget about organic mulch's propensity for harboring both mold and mushrooms. Damp wood chips and straw serve as the ideal environment for both types of fungus, and in most cases these growths help your garden plants instead of hurting them. Unfortunately, those spore-laden guests aren't always so friendly to pets.
Many mushrooms popping up in garden mulch are poisonous and look tasty to curious pets. Aside from poison risks, your dog or cat is also likely to suffer an allergic reaction while traipsing around in a mulched bed full of mold. Sticking with inorganic materials is the best way to prevent fungal problems.
Besides the allergies caused by mold hiding under the surface, all organic mulches contain allergens. From skin-irritating pine resin to hay dust that sets off a sneezing fit, a sensitive pet can wander in quite unhappy after a trip through the garden. As with fungus concerns, inorganic mulch is the best option for pets with allergies too.
Your pet's outdoor habits should decide what type of mulch you order for delivery. If your dog is only ever taken outdoors while leashed, you might prefer pine bark since it's not outright dangerous and your pup is unlikely to get loose and mess it up. You'll need to invest in a more expensive inorganic mulch or landscape supplies for gardens with dogs and cats roaming through them freely.